Burzum began in 1987 as a prominent Norwegian black metal solo project. It was formed by Varg Vikernes (born Kristian Larsson Vikernes), under the name of Count Grishnackh. Vikernes is currently serving a prison sentence in Norway for murder and arson. Vikernes and his project were instrumental in the crystallisation of early black metal, much of which is due to the infamy attributed to Vikernes since the murder of his rival Øystein Aarseth. Aarseth, known better to some by his stage name of Euronymous, played guitar for the well-known Norwegian black metal band Mayhem.
Genre: Black metal, isolationist
Status: on hold
In 1988 or 1989, Varg Vikernes formed a group called Kalashnikov (named for the Kalashnikov assault rifle), which eventually changed its name to Uruk-Hai. Uruk-Hai is the name for the orc race of Middle-earth from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. In 1989, Vikernes broke away from Uruk-Hai to join the death metal act Old Funeral. Uruk-Hai's drummer and bassist, Vikernes claims, were neither serious nor talented musicians, but this was not the case with the members of Old Funeral (who eventually went on to form the notorious black metal group Immortal). Vikernes remained with Old Funeral for two years, deciding in 1991 to create a solo project instead, in which he could write and record a "more original and personal type of music" (some consider Burzum to be a progression of the band Uruk-Hai, for several of the same riffs are used in Vikernes' compositions). Varg intended the Burzum project to be an anonymous effort, which was the reason behind his taking the name of Count Grishnackh.
Burzum's early music shows a moderate Tolkien influence; for example, the name Count Grishnackh is taken from an orc character called Grishnákh in Tolkien's works. The choice of the name for the project reflects both this influence and the desire for anonymity: "Burzum" is a word of the Black Speech of Mordor meaning "darkness", and is therefore to be found on the Ring-inscription of the One Ring. Some of Burzum's early songs featured titles like "En Ring Til Å Herske" ("One Ring To Rule"); however, Vikernes later explained this to be a reference to the Rheingold of Norse mythology rather than to Tolkien's works, which themselves owe some debt to Norse mythology. As he continued to release albums, Vikernes' attraction to Norse mythology and Pagan beliefs became more and more apparent. Much of Burzum's later work focuses on Norse legends, especially his most recent two ambient albums: Dauði Baldrs, which deals exclusively with the legend of the death of Baldr, and Hliðskjálf, which recounts the death of Wotan and the approach of Ragnarok.
Musically, Burzum has progressed from primitive, raw black metal to classical-influenced ambient music characterised by minimalist tendencies and dark atmospheres. Vikernes' music is generally considered to be characterised by hypnotic repetition and simple yet profound song structures; this trademark sound has been present on Burzum's black metal and synthieval albums alike. Vikernes has described Burzum as a kind of "spell" or recreation of an imaginary world tied in with Pagan history. Each album, he claims, was designed as a kind of "spell" in itself, with each beginning song intending to make the listener more susceptible to "magic", the following songs to inspire a "trance-like state of mind", and the last song to carry the listener into a "world of fantasy" (dreams, for the listener would fall asleep - Burzum was supposed to have been evening music). Vikernes claims that the intent to create this fantasy world came from dissatisfaction with the real world. He has stated that the "message" of Burzum can be found in the lyrics of the first song of the first album (Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown); that following lyrics act as footnotes.
Currently, Vikernes is in prison for the murder of his former friend and fellow musician Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous of Mayhem), as well as the arson of several ancient Norwegian churches. Vikernes is suspected to have taken part in various other crimes, and was believed to have been planning another church burning at the time of his arrest (police found 100 kg of explosives in his home). Vikernes was formerly a member of the far-right extremist group "Hvit Arisk Motstand" ("White Aryan Resistance"), and was once involved with the "Norsk Hedensk Front" ("Norwegian Heathen Front"). He has expressed interest in Neo-Nazism and has written several books dealing with his worldview.
Vikernes has released two Burzum albums from prison: Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf. Both albums rely only on keyboards and - in Vikernes' own estimation - are not related to the black metal genre. The Filosofem (1996) album was released to the public after Vikernes had been imprisoned. For the longest part of his incarceration, Vikernes claimed to have renounced any connection with black metal and heavy metal music in general, but a recent interview suggests that with the possibility of a probation release during April of 2006, he will continue with Burzum in much the same vein as the first four albums. He still claims, however, to have little respect for the trappings of heavy metal culture and absolutely detests the "sex, drugs, and rock n' roll" aspect of metal music.
Though Varg Vikernes does admit to disliking metal's "non-Aryan" orgin's, he claims that this is not why Burzum's music has become more ambient and less guitar-based. It is in fact due to him not being allowed to have certain instruments and equipment in his prison cell. Also, he does not in fact hate his earlier work and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is his favourite Burzum release.
The Filosofem album did however produce an experimental 8 minute ambient video from british artist/director David Palser, who employed stylistic images of the Norwegian landscape combined with the Rune-Poem of the Elder Futhark, in what has sometimes been described as "the most pure black metal video" of the genre.
Many of the Burzum albums feature illustrations by the Norwegian 19th century artist Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914).
Unholy Records have released a Burzum tribute album called Visions-A Tribute to Burzum (2002.
Wotan's Reich Production also released a Burzum tribute album called A Man, A Band, A Symbol (2003).
Ancient Beliefs also released a Burzum tribute album called Wotan Mit Uns! (2003).
Ash Nazg / Perverted Taste also released a Burzum Tribute called The Tribute (2005).
Varg Vikernes expects to be released early, sometime in the near future, and intends to continue Burzum. He has stated that he will again use guitars and yet retain his ambient sound.
Burzum (Promo) 1992 - (1992)
Burzum - (1992) (Reis. 1995) (Guitar Solo on the track "War" was played by Euronymous)
- (1993)(Reis. 1995)
Det Som Engang Var - (1993)
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss - (1994)
Filosofem - (1996)
Dauði Baldrs - (1997)
Hliðskjálf - (1999)
Live and compilation releases
Burzum / Aske Compilation
Presumed Guilty - (1998)
Gummo (Soundtrack) - (1998)
Anthology - (2002)
Fenriz Presents ...The Best Of Old School Black Metal - (2004)
Burzum Demo I
Burzum Demo II
Et Hvitt Lys Over Skogen BOOTLEG
Burzum & Gorgoroth BOOTLEG
Svarte Dauen BOOTLEG
Burzum Unreleased Demos BOOTLEG
- (1994) (The last track (Carnage Undivine Live) is not made or played by Burzum (a "fake" track).)
Blast From The Ancient Past BOOTLEG
A Blaze From The Northern Sky ... No Less BOOTLEG
Burzum Unreleased Demo BOOTLEG
Ragnarok (A New Beginning) BOOTLEG
...Was Einst War BOOTLEG
Once Emperor BOOTLEG
Burzum/Svarte Dauen BOOTLEG
Dauði Baldrs/Burzum & Gorgoroth BOOTLEG
Det Som Engang Var/Ragnarok I (A New Beginning BOOTLEG
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss/Ragnarok II (A New Beginning) BOOTLEG
Beneath The Ruins Of Christianity BOOTLEG
Erste Waffen BOOTLEG
Winterliche Reinheit BOOTLEG
Count Grishnackh (Varg Vikernes) - Vocals, guitar, keyboard, bass, drums - (1991-2000) (He will continue the band when he is released.)
Samoth (Tomas Haugen) - Bass - (1993)